For more than 10 years now, social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or, more recently, Instagram or Snapchat have had a huge impact on our lives. More than one in two French people use social networks everyday for nearly everything: sharing news, posting photos, talking with friends and, thankfully in rare occasions, telling their family they’re safe.
So it’s totally normal that small and big brands are also active on these platforms, as they aim to reach these people. But it seems they might have bitten the hand that feeds.
Brands use social media the way they used TV
What do brands do everyday on social media? Their aim is to get good rating numbers: how many people saw my ad? How many people reacted to my content? How many shares did I get? This is nearly the same kind of data that brands have been looking for on television for the past 75 years. So even though we’re now in 2016 and that brands and agencies are saying that they’re digital, innovative, closer to their “communities”, it does often seem that they just want an audience to push their contents to. No much has changed since the first TV ad in July 1941.
What’s the problem if it’s working?
Well, it’s not working.
- More expensive campaigns
First, brands have to pay more and more just to gain attention. As natural reach is decreasing day after day, brands have to buy more ads just to get the same number of views. And that’s a great business opportunity for Facebook whose stock price and revenues rose each time the organic reach rate of its users decreased.
Imagine a TV network saying that they don’t have new viewers but that they’re charging more anyway if you want your ads to be broadcasted. That’s what’s happening now on social media. Competition is so strong that you have to spend more and more money just for so ads are displayed to your fans or followers. Not sure that it’s something that will last.
- Useful data is disappearing
In addition to this, brands and agencies have less and less access to data enabling them to understand the real impact of their actions and the real opinion of people behind all the poor ratings and KPIs. Why? Simply because historical platforms like Facebook shut down the access to this data and new ones like Snapchat never even gave access in the first place. Twitter is the last platform we can really listen to and analyze but Twitter is not in great shape right now, struggling to get new active members and to keep old ones publishing content.
Also, brands have never tracked real ROI from their social media actions. For some social media managers, “ROI” is a word that is best avoided. Well, if I had been in a cool job for the past decade with no one asking for numbers and tangible results, I may also want to keep things that way. But really, we’re living in a real world and even if I love my job, I have to show that I’m good at it by achieving the results I’m expected to. And getting new fans is not what we should be calling a real result as this is pretty useless for any business in the world. No business has been created to get fans, ever.
Finally, the social media users themselves are telling brands they just can’t bare their ads anymore. How? By massively installing adblockers on their desktop and mobile browsers. Adblocking technologies will definitely be one of the massive trends in 2016.
What will the consequences be?
I believe that 2016 will be the year when brands will become aware of all of this. But it will not happen without consequences. I think there will be 3 important consequences:
- Brands abandoning social listening tools
What’s the point in keeping software that basically only lets you listen to Twitter, a platform which is becoming less important than many others for customer service? Ok, some software also let you listen to blogs, forums and news but you can’t interact with the contents from these solutions. And when you can listen to YouTube or Instagram, for example, you are limited to captions. You can’t analyze the actual content itself. Pretty useless. That’s why we never put listening at the heart of Bringr, even if it was the first feature we shipped. Listening was just the beginning for us. Something useful to improve publishing and answering but not something that should be used alone. A utility. That’s also why we called the feature “ Bringr Strategy”: it was there to help you build your strategy, not to produce daily reporting of what people were saying.
- Brands finally reshaping their strategy to be more social than media
If their content publication is not as “effective” as before, and if it’s more and more expensive to publish, my guess is that brands will start rethinking their strategy. People are increasingly using platforms, but as they want something else, brands must do something else. No more useless ads. No more funny pictures to gain popularity. No more awful polls, awful contests or awful games. Use social networks for what they were originally been made: social interactions. CONVERSATIONS.
- Community managers moving to customer success
If strategies are moving from publishing to conversations, community managers won’t be paid to post cat pictures and get likes anymore. They will be paid to manage communities! Talking with them (and not to them), helping them, gathering them, empowering them, being useful for them… It will be hard for all of those amateur community managers freelancing for a few bucks an hour just because they have time and know how to schedule a post on Facebook, but we’ll see the rise of more talented and professional people who know how to really deal with those new strategies and with real conversations. People, in organizations, who are closer to customer service/success than to marketing. Customer service will also have to reinvent itself, be more ROI driven and seen as profitable instead of just a cost-center. So freelance real community managers will also be a strong trend in 2016.
The rise of new platforms
Let’s be clear: Facebook Pages, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube will still be highly important for brands. I think that Facebook will even improve it’s Page experience for brands, especially small ones, with the aim of becoming the heart of their web presence. So, don’t worry, you won’t have to throw everything away.
But something that became absolutely massive everywhere in the world in 2015 will become the most important thing for all brands in 2016: messaging. Conversation platforms.
The most important move was Facebook’s and what they’ve started doing with Messenger. Two major improvements have been made to the app used by more than 800 million people worldwide.
- Messenger Platform: companies are now able to build services on top of Messenger to improve the conversation experience of their customers (gif apps anyone?) or to provide chat features to their own users. Just like Facebook has been (and still is) an extremely powerful platform to build new businesses or to gain traction (think about the game industry — Zynga — or the dating industry — Happn) Messenger will help apps grow worldwide. Facebook really is a platform company and has the DNA to do it.
- Businesses on Messenger (BOM): the way Facebook in entering the customer service market, or how brands (starting with retailers) can start post-sale conversations with their customers directly on Messenger. A few brands are testing it right now and the first results are outstanding. My guess is that it will become one of the most important customer service channel in the next few months as Facebook will be deploying it widely.
Also, the growth of these apps is way more important than what we’ve observed on social media in the past.
If brands think they have to be on Instagram or Pinterest to reach their customers, be sure that, looking at this data, they will be rushing to messaging services in the next few months :)
The way brands are using social today is not working anymore. Their outdated way of posting content is no longer reaching people anymore, or at a non profitable price. And by massively installing adblockers people are clearly saying that they don’t want to see this kind of content and ads anymore. At the same time, conversation apps are taking off and every major social player is making strategic moves in this field.
In 2016, brands will have to stop using social the way they’ve been using old media for the past 75 years and they will have to start being really social, in particular by talking with their customers. That’s the only way social will drive ROI, the one and only goal for all companies in the world.
2016, the year of conversation.